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MEDITATION, MUSIC & PROPHECY : R. Gedaliah Aharon Kenig

THE GREAT SONG OF CREATION

Rebbe Nachman teaches about a flowing wellspring and a river whose waters are drawn from this spring.[1] The spring is considered the mystery of nekuda, a “point,” because it is described as a specific point from which water flows. This is related to the Hebrew letter yud [ י ] whose shape is a single point. In contrast, the river is described as the Hebrew letter vav [ו] whose shape is an element extending from a point, since a river’s waters extend outward.

Furthermore, the wellspring, represented by the point in the shape of a yud, is the light of wisdom, called chochma. The river, represented by the element extending from a point in the shape of a vav, is the light of bina, understanding, that dwells in the heart. Just as the river is filled and blessed when it receives from the waters of the wellspring, so too the understanding of the heart (bina), is perfected when it receives influence from the light of the mind’s wisdom (chochma).

Rebbe Nachman describes three points of wisdom in the mind, which are three wellsprings of chochma. These three points are the source of wisdom from which the river, representing bina and understanding of the heart, is filled and blessed. We were each created in the image of G-d, in that our minds and hearts are channels for wisdom. Therefore, it is our role to constantly strive for perfection by drawing the waters of blessing from these three points of wisdom in the mind into the understanding of the heart. In other words, it is upon each of us to ensure that the mind (chochma) and heart (bina) are connected through these points which bring an abundant influx of understanding into the heart so it will not lack in any way. This is the perfection of the nefesh (soul).

THE THREE POINTS OF WISDOM
The following describes, in sequence, the three points of wellspring/wisdom in the mind:

  1. The point of wisdom in the rav, tzaddik and sage of the generation, who is the primary source of the waters of wisdom, and who is the all-encompassing influence on the generation.
  2. The point of wisdom in the mind of one’s friend, containing whatever wisdom their friend received according to his or her intellectual abilities, from the rav of the generation.
  3. The point of wisdom in the mind of each person, received personally according to his or her own intellectual capacity, from the wisdom of the rav of the generation.

All three points of wisdom require the use of the spoken word in order to draw the waters of the wellspring (mind/chochma) into the river (heart/bina). This is hinted to in the verse, Pi yedaber chochmot v’hagut libi tevunot, “My mouth will speak wisdom and the meditations of my heart understand” (Psalms 49:4).

The use of the spoken word is expressed through each of the three points in the following ways:

  • Everyone requires an authentic teacher, a rav and sage (chacham) from whom they can learn and receive the true wisdom. For example, [after the Exodus from Egypt] the entire Jewish people received their knowledge of G-d from Moses.
  • In addition, you must speak with your friend with yirat shamayim (fear of heaven), so your heart will be awakened from the point of wisdom that your friend possesses more than you.
  • Finally, to complete everything, you must speak to G-d in order to illuminate your own point of wisdom[2] and draw it into the understanding of the heart.[3] This is called hitbodedut (literally “secluding oneself” to commune with G-d).[4]

When you articulate words in your conversation with G-d, your hitbodedut is then built upon a foundation of truth. This is what connects the point of wisdom in your own mind to the understanding of your heart. The result is a lev tamim, an unblemished, straightforward heart,[5] i.e., a feeling heart vs. one that is sealed shut, unable to feel. In this way, the nefesh is perfected.
This all highlights the central requirement of the spoken word during hitbodedut—speech articulated through using the five parts connected to the mouth: teeth, tongue, lips, throat, and palate. This is true to the extent that it is worthwhile to spend an entire hour in hitbodedut, even if you can only manage to utter a few words.

There are additional requirements of hitbodedut involving time and place. This is because there are specific times and places more conducive to attaining the purpose of hitbodedut.[6] However, there are no specific limitations or requirements regarding body position. It is possible to practice hitbodedut in any position, whether sitting, standing, walking, or laying down—any way that is most comfortable. Since the entire purpose of hitbodedut is to exit from a constricted consciousness to a more expanded one, any position that helps to accomplish this objective is fine.

Anyone who alters these conditions of using the spoken word or placing specific limitations on body position in any way whatsoever, strips hitbodedut of the ability to achieve positive results. Instead of attaining a settled mind, improper hitbodedut brings confusion, irritation and anger, G-d forbid, which of course is completely contrary to the intended purpose. Rebbe Nachman refers to this: “Through hitbodedut and passing one’s time idly, one comes to anger.”[7] He writes elsewhere, “Anger comes from improper hitbodedut.”[8]

This is the answer to many who perform hitbodedut regularly, yet complain they remain far from a settled mind. It is obvious that their practice lacks the above conditions, and they are only acting according to their own opinion as to what constitutes proper hitbodedut.

We can now better understand the following words from the prophet Amos:[9]

“Behold, days are coming, says the L-rd G-d, and I will send famine into the land, not a famine of bread and not a thirst for water, but to hear the word of G-d. And they shall wander from sea to sea, and north to east; they will run back and forth seeking the word of G-d, but they will not find.”

On the surface, these words pose a difficulty, since how could it be that “they will not find”? We are witnesses today to the materialization of this prophetic vision and how it engulfs most of the world. An intense hunger and thirst to hear the word of G-d has been awakened among countless people in our times. They wander the face of the earth, from sea to sea, and in every direction to find from whom to learn, and are filled with a tremendous desire for the word of G-d. If this is the case, why don’t they find it?

We are already familiar with the maxim, “If one says, ‘I struggled and I didn’t find,’ don’t believe them.”[10] Nonetheless, how is it possible, after so much wandering and struggle, they are unable to find what they are looking for?

 According to Rebbe Nachman, there are a number of reasons:

  • First of all, most of the world, even among those who struggle in their search for the word of G-d, quickly tire, and quit in the middle. They stop at the first “teacher” who reveals some sort of wonder or supposed “prophecy,” satisfying them enough to remain with this teacher. It doesn’t occur to them to check further to see if they are proper and desirable in the eyes of HaShem, or if they are a type of guide on the level of Moses, who spoke only words of truth and righteousness; someone through whom the Shechina speaks and who is filled only with the awareness of G-d.
  • A second reason one does not find is that the person lacks belief in the idea of the existence of an authentic talmid chacham of the generation, and in addition, has reservations about receiving the inspiration they themselves lack from their friend’s point of wisdom.
  • Lastly, they belittle what they do receive from their teacher and are unwilling to make an effort to actualize the potential of the revelation through pleading to G-d.

HITBODEDUT, MUSIC & SONG
It is essential to establish an incontrovertible fact regarding meditation for those who choose to attach themselves to the One Living G-d. An important aspect of hitbodedut teaches techniques on how to empty the mind of distracting thoughts, even from things which pose no disturbance whatsoever. The purpose of these techniques is to provide the mind with a break from its normal activities, as well as to create a much broader place within the mind capable of receiving spiritual light.

However, it is critical to realize that these techniques to empty the mind are only meant regarding created beings and the creation. There was never an intention to apply these techniques to G-d Himself, Creator and Ruler of all worlds. Since if the mind is emptied even of the thought of G-d, chas v’shalom, the thought process is automatically given over to the domain of desolation, a place of calamity and trouble, where all types of destructive forces dwell and embitter a person’s life. Constant cleaving to the single G-d saves a person from all sin and damage. Therefore, it is dangerous and utterly forbidden to empty one’s thoughts of G-d Himself, even for an instant.

Nothing exists without music and song, since it is the life spirit of everything. The arms of music and song embrace the world and everyone in it every single day.  Each entity in creation expresses its own perfect and unique sound. Its entire being is nothing but a single chord amidst the multitude of chords comprising the all-encompassing song of ultimate perfection−a song built from the myriad of details within all the worlds.

In one of his stories, “The Exchanged Children,” Rebbe Nachman relates that there are chords of wondrous melody hidden within the different roars of wild animals. These chords join together to create a perfect sweet and pleasant song, heard by the noble of heart. The song then ascends on high and is integrated into the greater all-encompassing song of creation.

The great song of creation was composed by G-d two thousand years before the world was formed. Concentrated within it are the 600,000 letters comprising the Torah. Afterwards, He created the worlds and heavenly bodies from the various combinations, crowns, vowel points, and accents of these letters. Together with the Torah itself, it was all given over to Moses on Mount Sinai. From there, it was handed to Joshua, who passed it on to the elders, and from the elders it was transmitted to the Men of the Great Assembly, according to the line of transmission stated in Pirkei Avot. Afterwards, it was passed from generation to generation until today; this is the Torah we have now in our possession.

The Written and Oral Torah, along with the multitude of holy books that explain and renew the Torah for each generation, are part of one entity. All of these works are needed, without exception, for the ultimate perfection of the great song of creation. (It is worth noting that the Written Torah is the “stringed instrument” upon which this song is actually played.)

The Written Torah itself is the concentration of the all-encompassing perfect song, containing many wondrous notes—the 613 mitzvot of the Torah. The countless intricate details of each mitzvah are then revealed through the Oral Torah. The Oral Torah explains the mitzvot, giving them proper context through the thirteen exegetical principles of the Torah, transmitted to us from Moses, who received it directly from G-d.

Every generation possesses faithful expounders of the Torah, occupied solely with generating the necessary chords which compose a perfect song. It is a song of sweet and pleasant notes built from every detail of their commentaries and laws, and integrated as part of the larger song of creation.

We see the ongoing composition and complexity of the all-inclusive great song of creation revealed in the four sections of the Shulchan Aruch [Code of Jewish Law] and accompanying commentaries. It is also seen in the innovations of science and the wide range of new technology and products in our generation, which benefit humankind and improve the standard of living in the world. Everything attests to the profound intricate magnificence of the great song.

The detailed fulfillment of every mitzvah in the Torah constitutes our divine service. Thus, in a sense, we can call mitzvah observance a form of real “Jewish meditation.” In this context, it is clear that anyone who does a mitzvah or detail thereof, is plucking and strumming correctly on the strings of the instrument. The song then emerges in all of its beauty and is heard throughout the world. Through mitzvah observance, we awaken a living spirit which vitalizes the portion of creation that belongs to us. This dynamic occurs through the will of the Creator to benefit His creation. We can now proceed to discuss prophecy and ruach hakodesh.

PROPHECY & RUACH HAKODESH
The attainment of prophecy and ruach hakodesh can be described as the sublime pleasure of a kiss from the mouth of G-d, that speaks the words of the entire Torah. It can also be described as the delight of attachment to the living G-d. Proper and detailed mitzvah observance prepares a person to attain prophecy and ruach hakodesh. This is because the musical notes that are thereby awakened are connected to the powers of prophecy and ruach hakodesh. The interrelationship between music and prophecy is illustrated by the prophet Elisha. When he wanted to draw upon himself the prophetic spirit, he said, “‘And now bring me a musician.’ And it was that when a musician played, the hand of HaShem came upon him.”[11]

We can now understand the significance of the true leaders of Israel, the mighty ones who safeguard the Torah and its observance. They stand at their holy posts and supervise the vineyard of the House of Israel, aligning the lives of the Jewish people according to the Torah and mitzvot. This prevents any corruption in the movements of the great song, and infuses the spirit of life into the various parts of creation, preparing us to delight in ruach hakodesh and prophecy.

Let us contemplate how to draw the waters of our mind’s wellspring into the river of our hearts to water the trees and surrounding vegetation, so all humanity can enjoy them. We will know how to fulfill the Torah and mitzvot properly, since only through this will the words of our holy prophets be materialized and the world repaired. Every human being will call upon the name of G-d and serve Him in one accord, with the coming of our righteous Mashiach speedily in our days, Amen.

Translated from a talk given in Tsfat.

 

  1. Likutey Moharan 54
  2. Corresponding to pi yedaber chochmot.
  3. Corresponding to v’hagot libi tevunot.
  4. Hitbodedut is considered a form of Jewish mediation.
  5. Known as a “circumcised” heart.
  6. Likutey Moharan 52
  7. Sefer HaMiddot, Hitbodedut 1:2
  8. Sefer HaMiddot, Ka’as 35
  9. Amos 8:11-12
  10. Megilla 6b
  11. II KIngs 3:15

 

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FIND THE “ALONE” : R. Itamar Schwartz

Are you a body with a soul or a soul with a body? Lest you think this is merely a matter of semantics, the answer to this question either imprisons or transforms a person. While it is common to identify oneself as essentially a body with a soul, the truth is the soul is one’s primary identity with the body serving as its external “garment”. This is significant when attempting to understand what drives emotions, particularly in relation to fellow human beings.

Everyone possesses a world of emotions, each individual with a different level of sensitivity. The ability to deal properly with this world depends on understanding the elements from which it is comprised, and how to separate positive and negative feelings. While positive emotions are part of our essential self—the essence of the soul—negative emotions are external to a person and part of the body force.

Emotions can be divided into two categories: 1) emotions felt in relation to others; and 2) emotions felt in relation to oneself. The first category includes feelings such as love and compassion as well as negative emotions of hate and jealousy, etc. There are times when negative emotions against others drive a person to destruction. For instance, this can be the case when someone is hurt by another and is unwilling to forgive the offender. They invest enormous time, money, and energy ensuring the other side emerges the loser and pays dearly for what they did. In their quest to cause suffering to the other party they are willing to lose property, work-time, and a fortune in legal fees. Their thoughts are consumed by anger and hate, with nowhere to flee.

THE GREAT ESCAPE

Is there any way to escape the trap of negative emotions that drive one’s actions? The path begins with a deeper conceptualization of the emotional world of a human being as well as the ability to correctly identify and categorize emotions in the right way.

The first human being, Adam, was created alone. Only afterwards, Eve was created, and then Cain and Abel were born. However, the first human structure was a single being, not more—a fact holding tremendous depth and significance. While it is beneficial that there are others in the world, however, a human being possesses an inherent inner power to live alone, in a world where no one else exists.

There are two different powers in the soul. One power is the ability to live in a world with others. This was only revealed after Eve was created and the subsequent birth of ensuing generations. However, there is an earlier power created deep within the soul of a person called “alone.” It came into being during a time when there was no one else to love or hate.

When does the power of “alone” become relevant? When you live among others and develop negative feelings against them for whatever reason, this is the time to reveal the internal force called “alone”. Disconnect from the situation even when someone does something against you and you may feel it is an obligation to hate them for what they did. It is here where you should access the world called “alone.” It is a pre-existing inner force implanted in the human soul from the first moment of creation, remaining even after free choice came into play. Only then, it became hidden deep within the inner recesses of the heart. The challenge is to know when to use it appropriately and under the right circumstances.

In and of itself, the power of “alone” is positive, but depending upon how it is used, in can be negative. For example, living only for oneself when it is proper to relate to others is obviously incorrect. However, used correctly, the power of “alone” makes it possible to disconnect from negative feelings towards other people. This is not to say that the main goal is to be cut off from our emotions, but rather to know when to disengage our essential self from detrimental feelings.

TIME OUT TECHNIQUE

It is normal and healthy to seek connection to others. Yet there is another power within us, called “alone.” Both powers are needed to live. Although the desire to connect is good, it is only positive within certain boundaries, which build a person. Used in the wrong place, it destroys. Most of us are surrounded by other people most of the day. Even when alone we are besieged twenty-four hours a day by the gamut of communication devices. You might have two cellphones and answer both simultaneously while typing before a computer screen. Cellphones are left on the entire night next to our ear since who knows who may call?

The desire to connect to others should not consume one’s entire life. It is important to start habituating oneself to the fact that there is an inner world called “alone.” For example, while calculating your bank statement, the phone rings. If you answer, you lose your place and are forced to start over. A new routine, using the power of “alone,” would be to finish your calculations and return the call a few minutes later, resisting the urge to be on call every moment. “What does it matter, I can just begin again,” you think. While this may be true, you are exhibiting an inability to spend even a moment alone with yourself. We are not talking about anything spiritual here, rather about practical behavior in the physical world. While performing a task alone, you are training yourself to do nothing else other than what is before you at the moment. You gain not only the two minutes of computing that would have been lost by answering the phone, but you are sensitizing yourself to something of major personal significance.

It is bedtime and you are reading the children a story. The phone rings in the middle and you jump up to answer. Do you really think the telephone is more important than your children? Of course not, but this is an ingrained habit. Unless you are expecting an urgent call, tell yourself that you are now busy with the children and there is no reason good enough to be disturbed in the middle. If the sound of a ringing phone is irresistible then unplug it temporarily. Our lives brim with scenarios where it is possible to ask ourselves if this telephone call is really more important than what we are doing at the moment. What exactly is at stake? You are losing the innermost power in the soul, called “alone.”

We live in a world of activity and noise. Once, life was much simpler. People would awake early in the morning to go out to the field. They might meet someone on the way before continuing on to work where they would be alone from morning until evening. Or thirty years ago, for example, if one went into overdraft at the bank there was no way to immediately inform them. Here in Israel, not every home had a phone and in some areas when a phone line was ordered it took 10 years before it was installed. This is not ancient history. Today, we have instant notification and are on call around the clock. We have lost the life called “alone.” Again, we are not speaking about spirituality here, or even when someone takes a call in the middle of prayer services and says, “Nu nu nu…” which is of course understood by everyone to mean he cannot be disturbed during prayer. Rather, we are talking about living in a physical world and being fully present in the practical moment.

Yet another example: After a long workday (and talking on your cellphone the entire way home) you return to an empty house. Your wife went out somewhere with the kids and everything is completely silent. You are suddenly faced with an unexpected half hour of silence. What do you do? You immediately pick up a newspaper and no sooner than that the phone starts to ring. You may say, “Is there a problem with reading the newspaper or answering the phone?” Yet, you simply haven’t given yourself a single moment to sit alone in quietude. Granted, usually there are not many opportunities for this in the course of a day, but every so often, we are given a few quiet moments from which to take advantage. No deep thought is required here, only to give the mind a small break. This can be accomplished even through sitting alone in silence for five minutes without news, distractions, or business. In the beginning it seems very strange and a waste of time. A more spiritually-minded individual may say, “I could be sitting and learning Torah these five minutes!” While true on one hand, on the other, without yishuv hadaat, a settled mind, one cannot learn or pray properly. Work isn’t as it should be and neither is shalom bayit, peace in the home between husband and wife. The yishuv hadaat acquired by a person imbues a calming effect on their entire life. It doesn’t hinge upon getting away on vacation, rather on those few moments during the day where there is focus on the task at hand without doing something else at the same time−or simply sitting alone doing nothing for a few quiet moments.

DISCOVERING YOUR TRUE SELF

It is impossible to understand the experience if you haven’t tried this. One who has, suddenly discovers, “I am new!” This occurs because a person’s “I” has two components, one related to others and the other to oneself. If you are accustomed only to the component of living with others, you are acquainted with only half of yourself. Upon deeper examination, it could be said that it is even less than half, since the world called “alone” is the essence of a person. Not many are familiar with this world because of the distractions in the world, as well as the lack of awareness that it even exists, yet it is something that must be striven for. The essence of your “I” can only be discovered through sitting by yourself during a normal time when you are in control of your emotions. There are no additional conditions attached to this besides calm and quiet. If it helps, listen to a calming melody. Inner quiet is the largest treasure one has since it is where the Creator of the world exists. We are not yet talking about olam haba, rather the ability to live a settled, balanced, and measured life in this world. The revelation of “I” in the dimension of “alone” is only attained by entering a world of silence and focus.

OUR FOREFATHERS

The special inner world of “alone” is where our forefathers Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob live, as well as Moses and King David.1 They all went into the desert as shepherds searching for this world of quiet. We can tread upon the path of our forefathers who are the shepherds of the Jewish people. This world of “alone” is not an innovation, or a product of eastern religions, rather it is our ancestral heritage. Moses specifically requested from Jethro, his father-in-law, to work as a shepherd because it provided him with a quiet setting. It was here where Moses encountered the burning bush, as well as the revelation of the Torah on Mount Sinai. During this time, the creation was utterly silent; there was not a sound from bird or beast.

Moses was able to stand and receive the Torah directly from G-d only because of the yishuv hadaat he attained while working as a shepherd in an isolated world of quiet and serenity. It was not isolation for the sake of itself, rather for the sake of disconnecting from the evil in the world and connecting to the living G-d. The world of “alone” for the soul is like bread and water for the body. It is built into the basic structure of the soul. If a person is unable to feel this need, it is a sign that their soul is buried so deeply inside materiality that they are unable to feel or hear its inner voice. This is similar to a person with cancer, G-d forbid, who loses their sense of taste and desire to eat.

TWO ROOMS

A man is sitting in his office on the phone, when suddenly he becomes embroiled in a heated argument, and begins to scream at the person on the other end of the call. Everyone in the vicinity hears the commotion. He slams down the phone in rage. No one can speak to him and he is unable to function the rest of the day. That night at home, he can’t sleep as his thoughts churn over the events of the day. He tries to calm himself down, but is dragged back again and again to the same cycle of negative thoughts. The more he thinks, the deeper he is drawn in. However, it is different for the one who begins accustoming themselves to the world of “alone,” since they discover a place in the soul where they can go. It is as if there are two rooms where you can leave one to enter the other. Likewise, there are two rooms in the heart—one for others and one for yourself.

This is like an individual sitting in a room with a friend, equipped with a camera that sees their every move. The person then exits this room to another one, and is able to sit alone unseen. You also have two rooms that exist deep within your soul—one for others, and another silent one which exists only for you. If you accustom yourself during times of balanced emotions to spend a few minutes in this room, an inner world of quiet, you discover, “I am new—I am not the person you knew a moment ago!” When this “I” is uncovered, you have found the room in your soul where there is no one else but you. It is a place to where you can flee in times of anger or other harmful emotions. If there is no one else around, who can be the subject of your anger or jealousy? If you are not familiar with this place, then where can you go? The anger pursues you and there is no place to escape.

IDENTIFYING YOUR THOUGHTS

Even during those times you find yourself alone and decide to take advantage of the opportunity, there is another challenge. Your very thoughts can transport you far away from your inner world of “alone.” Even if you unplug the phone, put the newspaper aside and turn off the computer, you could be carrying all of New York City in your mind. Your thoughts could be on everything going on in the country, or flying throughout the entire world. Thus, even though you may be technically alone, in reality, the entire world is buzzing inside your head. In this case, it is worse than a cell phone, which is only next to your ear.

The first step is to identify where your thoughts are. Say you are sitting alone at home during a quiet moment and the first thought that falls into your mind is about work. Take a few steps back and note that your thoughts are about work. The next step is to evaluate if you are experiencing your “I” or in a place far from your “I”. Ask yourself, “Is my work ‘me’?” You realize that it isn’t, but while your body is sitting at home, your thoughts are at work, with all the noise and pressure. At this stage, it is not an issue of even distinguishing positive from negative thoughts, rather it is the effort to quiet down your thoughts in stages, little by little.

You can know whether or not you have entered the world of “alone” by identifying the nature of your thoughts, with what they are occupied and where they are connecting you. Are you within the confines of “alone” or far away in a distant place?

It should be relatively easy to pinpoint your thoughts and guide them to a quiet inner place if this exercise is done during times of no pressure, and you are dealing with the thoughts that normally drift through the mind. Say to yourself, “I have decided to take two minutes to myself, and there is no need to think these thoughts.” In the next few seconds, check again where your thoughts are. You now notice they have drifted to the bank. Ask yourself another time, “Where am I—at home or at the bank?” Contemplate again how far your thoughts are from the world of “alone.” Are they a part of your “I” or are they far away, connected to the distant outer garments of the soul, called the body. In this way, you become equipped to correctly identify and separate negative thoughts and emotions from your essential self.

This entire subject is vast and requires much more study. However, the basic premise is that a powerful inner world of “alone” exists in each one of us. It is a force that enables us to disconnect from negative and detrimental emotions toward others. It is also the world in which our forefathers exist and can be revealed simply through dedicating a few quiet moments a day to gradually disengage from what is not connected to the essential self.

PREPARATION FOR HITBODEDUT

However, this is just the first step in the amazing process of connecting to the divine, since accessing the world of “alone” is the fundamental preparation for hitbodedut, speaking to God in your own words. Only after discovering the world of “alone,” can you truly connect to God. Just as it is impossible to have two conversations at once, it is not possible to connect to HaShem while your thoughts are caught up in another place. You are speaking to G-d, but your soul is connected elsewhere. The ability to disconnect from the other places in order to access the world of “alone” will release you from the constriction of materiality and transform the quality of your life.

Translated and adapted with special permission from the author. Tzaddik Magazine is solely responsible for the translation.


1. R’ Avraham ben HaRambam

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THE DIRECT LINE: WHY HITBODEDUT IS WORTH CONSIDERING

Imagine someone giving you the private cell number of the most powerful person in the world, or granting you a daily audience with the leader of your country. In the case of hitbodedut, you can speak directly to no other than G-d Himself, during any time or place you choose.

The subject of hitbodedut is extremely broad. The idea of speaking directly to G-d from the heart in your native language was a concept championed by the holy Baal Shem Tov, and developed further by his great grandson, Rebbe Nachman of Breslev. G-d yearns for us to speak to Him in our own words. He waits for us to go over the entire list of our needs with Him, saying, “Abba, thank you. Abba, I lack this or that. Abba, please give me what I need.” This brings tremendous satisfaction and enjoyment to G-d.

One of the reasons hitbodedut is so powerful is that regular prayers need special merit to be accepted properly.[1] This is because the prayer of a Jew must ascend to an extremely exalted level, to a place far beyond the angelic realm, directly to what is called the “crown” of G-d. Many heavenly forces, led by the yetzer hara, seek to stop our prayers by bringing all sorts of accusations against a person, who they consider to be a “lowly human”. They say, “Let’s check out exactly who this one is,” and proceed to investigate a person in an effort to block their prayers from being accepted.

Hitbodedut on the other hand, is completely different. The yetzer hara can’t figure out how to touch the words of hitbodedut because it is unable to fathom the chutzpa of a Jew, who, despite all of his or her deficiencies, has the gumption to stand before G-d and speak directly to Him. It doesn’t understand how it is possible that G-d simply accepts the prayer exactly as articulated during hitbodedut.

Although the yetzer hara is aware that hitbodedut possesses some sort of secret, it doesn’t know exactly what. Once the words are uttered during hitbodedut, they ascend unhindered, directly to G-d. For this reason, it tries to weaken the resolve of anyone trying to practice hitbodedut. Therefore, it is important to overcome any obstacles that may arise, whether mental or otherwise, and strengthen ourselves to speak freely to G-d in our own words on a daily basis.While it is impossible to measure the actual greatness of hitbodedut, one who truly applies themselves to it will discover a priceless treasure of eternal value.

Based on a lesson given by Rav Ephraim Kenig, shlita, in Tsfat.


 

  1. There are stories of the holy Baal Shem Tov where he would enter a synagogue and release communal prayers caught between heaven and earth for generations because they lacked merit.